Researchers Launch Landmark Cancer Study For Black Women

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A landmark cancer study has been launched as Black women continue to hold some of the disease's lowest survival rates.

On Tuesday (May 7), the American Cancer Society launched VOICES of Black Women, which is aiming to become the largest study of cancer in Black women, per NBC News.

Black women are less likely to be diagnosed with cancer, but they are still more likely to die of it within five years, according to the National Cancer Institute. Breast cancer kills Black women at a 40 percent higher rate than their white counterparts, despite their rate of diagnoses being 4 percent lower. Black women are also 60 percent more likely to die of cervical cancer than white women and twice as likely to die of endometrial cancer.

The VOICES of Black Women will investigate what's driving the disparities. The study plans to analyze over 100,000 Black women ages 25 to 55 across the U.S. Researchers are set to follow the women, who must start the study as cancer-free, for 30 years to see how factors such as medical history, lifestyle, racism, and more affect their risk of developing or dying of cancer.

"With few exceptions, Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer, aggressive tumor types and have higher cancer-specific mortality rates than other women. It’s within this context that the American Cancer Society is launching VOICES of Black Women," Dr. Lauren McCullough, a co-principal investigator and the visiting scientific director at the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

"We recognize that there has been historic mistrust in the Black community for several reasons," another co-principal investigator of the VOICES study, Dr. Alpa Patel, senior vice president of population science for the American Cancer Society. "It’s been really front and center for us to ensure that we’ve partnered with Black women to understand how to build this study in a way that is respectful."

Black women will enroll for the study by registering on the website. They will fill out surveys annually that ask them about their medical history, diet, sleep patterns, physical activity, mental health, stress levels, and experiences of racism and discrimination. If a woman develops cancer, researchers will ask for permission to contact their doctor for further information regarding their diagnosis.

"It's rare that I use the word 'transformative,' but I think it's very appropriate here," Patel said of the potential findings.

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